International case management: supporting American workers abroad

May 27, 2024

Share on LinkedIn Share on Facebook Share on X

By Beth Burry, Managing Director, Managed Care; Kellie Jackson, VP, Business Developmen; Kathy Pedzinski, VP, Clinical Operations; Kimberly Warner, AVP, Field Case Management

Imagine being sent to a foreign country for a job assignment. In the course of your work abroad, you sustain a serious injury. You make it to the local hospital, thanks to the kindness of strangers, but you don’t speak the language or have any clue how to navigate the country’s health care system. Who can help you get the proper care you need, support your recovery, and ensure you make it home safely? Your short-term assignment in an exciting foreign land suddenly looks more like an extended and lonely nightmare.

Getting injured on the job can be scary under any circumstances, but even more so when it happens far from everything and everyone you know. Here, we’ll explore the importance of employers supporting their people outside the U.S. with international case management benefits.

Consistent care, regardless of location

Even domestically, case managers aim to ensure that injured workers receive high quality care from the right providers and specialists to facilitate maximum recovery. Trying to achieve the same results for employees in other countries can be next to impossible without a professional network of experts who have a thorough understanding of local practices. 

Treatment protocols and standards of care differ across the world; those in less developed or more remote areas may vary significantly from traditional U.S. care models, including the availability of modern equipment and type of clinician providing various services. In the field or engaged telephonically, on-the-ground case management resources are uniquely equipped to determine the safest and more prudent course of action — whether that’s seeking treatment locally, transport to the nearest major medical center or returning home to the U.S.

Case managers can also play a critical role in meeting injured workers’ needs abroad after the initial assessment and treatment. In some global cultures, family members are expected to care for a patient throughout their rehabilitation and recovery. An employee overseas may not have anyone with them, and no organization wants their employee discharged from a foreign hospital without proper support. That’s where case management comes in. A local case manager can help the employee secure appropriate follow-up care and any durable medical equipment (DME), as well as ensure their overseas accommodations suit them post-injury. For instance, if their temporary rental is in a walk-up building but they can no longer climb stairs, a case manager can help them find more easily accessible accommodations.

Serving unexpected needs

The workforce of today is more mobile than ever, so surprising care needs can arise anywhere at any time. Here are a few examples that demonstrate the value of having international case management resources in your corner:

  • An employee who sustained an on-the-job injury in the U.S. opted to spend her recovery time away from work with family in Puerto Rico for additional support. Her claims examiner and U.S.-based case manager worked closely with our case management partner in Puerto Rico to ensure continuity of high-quality care, as well as monitor and seamlessly document her recovery progress in our claims system.
  • An airline pilot who had resumed flying following recovery from a leg injury in the U.S. arrived at his destination overseas and found his mobility to be severely impaired. Though his workers’ compensation claim had closed, his needs had changed quickly and unexpectedly — and not in the most convenient of places. He alerted his claims examiner, who immediately enlisted our international case management resources to find appropriate care near his arrival location. A locally based case manager helped him overcome language barriers during his medical appointment and arranged for on-the-spot payment in local currency, a requirement in that country’s health care system.
  • An American professor fell off a boat while leading students on a European tour — sustaining significant injuries and leaving his cellphone, passport and wallet at the bottom of the river. We quickly arranged for a field case manager to be by his side, helping him feel less alone while making difficult medical decisions. She consulted with local practitioners and our claims team, and together we determined it would be best for him to return to the U.S. for the required surgery to minimize the potential for complications. Our international case manager played a critical role in facilitating safe air transport and expeditiously securing the necessary paperwork.

Extending the resource network

Here at Sedgwick, we are pleased to offer managed care clients a coordinated network of resources to support their injured and ill workers. Our in-house experts on workers’ compensation, clinical triage, medical investigation, catastrophic incidents, behavioral health, case management, bill review and other specialties collaborate with partners in every health care field to connect employees with high-quality, cost-effective care — all the while keeping employers, examiners and other key stakeholders informed throughout the claim lifecycle. 

Our new international case management partnership further extends our network and enables us to support the American workforce in more ways and in more places. It’s another way we’re able to show that taking care of people is at the heart of everything we do, because caring counts.  

Learn more — explore Sedgwick’s managed care solutions for workers’ compensation, as well as our global accident and health solutions that complement our international case management offering

Tags: Casualty, Employee, employee experience, field case management, Helping people, international, Managed care, United States, Workers comp, workers compensation